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A Mind Forever Voyaging (Apple II) artwork

A Mind Forever Voyaging (Apple II) review


"I don't believe A Mind Forever Voyaging is more profound than the emotionally apolitical Trinity or even the wildly clever Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but it's another successful text-adventure experiment from Infocom. It features you as PRISM aka Perry Simm, a computer built to simulate human experience in the future. It is another example of an Infocom game doing what a book would like to do but cannot, and here it creates an interactive dystopia with social comment..."



I don't believe A Mind Forever Voyaging is more profound than the emotionally apolitical Trinity or even the wildly clever Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but it's another successful text-adventure experiment from Infocom. It features you as PRISM aka Perry Simm, a computer built to simulate human experience in the future. It is another example of an Infocom game doing what a book would like to do but cannot, and here it creates an interactive dystopia with social commentary. Perhaps there's too much narration, and aside from losing if you ignore simple requess from your creators, there's little humor. The drama doesn't quite live up to the game box's backstory, where Perry discovers he is a simulation in his early twenties.

Your mission, as PRISM, is to gather information on a futuristic world for your creator, Dr. Abraham Perlman. He has written a program to simulate the effects of the new economic and social "Renew America" plan of the powerful Senator Richard Ryder, a dim but charismatic law-and-order type. To do this, you are transported to the future, in the town of Rockvil, South Dakota. You record life events to see how the plan affects you, from ten years in advance (2041) up to fifty years as you gather more data for Perelman. Even getting killed in simulation is valuable data.

The events to record must be different, though, so you'll have to explore all of Rockvil. Since a map comes with the package, then, a journalistic approach works. AMFV offers no crazily abstract puzzles--just being there and knowing what's important is enough. Perry's family life evolves, creating a side story as the justice system changes, and buildings and joybooths--electronic machines linked to suicide--are boarded up or constructed. Churches, businesses and welfare offices change their outlook and recruiting techniques, too.

In simulation, the narration is engaging, but robot mode is most memorable for lots of waiting and one-word commands. You can sleep for six hours a day, but humans only work for eight. Their interactions, though, including Perelman's conversations with the sociologist Randu, are worth watching. While the database notes from Library mode and the news feed ads and reports round out the story--China decentralizing its economy and ads for global locating devices are quite prescient--they don't let you get involved. There's a sabotage attempt late in the game that requires tinkering, but it's a read-the-manual puzzle. This makes AMFV less intuitive than most Infocom games.

Also, AMFV feels slanted in a way Trinity wasn't. It directly addresses deregulation of the construction industry, with a high-rise office building replacing a park. The goons in the game aren't silly but are the sort that creative types like to use as straw-men. People like this exist, of course, and there was only so much space for the story. Still, while I agree with the philosophy, the thoughtfulness felt forced. Even though AMFV's imagined technology and zealots are real today, ahead of schedule, it doesn't quite live up to the story on the game box.

So despite having the most poetic title of all Infocom games, AMFV gets a bit didactic and feels more like a research project where you're nudged as to what to find. This is ironic, as much of its plot is about fighting against corrupt types who probably commission their own research. Still, despite being a bit too overtly opposed to What Creative Types Hate, it's a successful game and one of the few that allows alternate solutions: roaming around Rockvil, you may find new tasks to record. This means no dazzling puzzles, so while AMFV is not the best introduction to Infocom game, but completists frustrated by the tougher stuff will definitely enjoy it.

Rating: 6/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (September 11, 2009)

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zippdementia posted September 11, 2009:

Give this one another read, Aschultz. There's a lot of grammatical errors. Check out your last couple lines for some examples.

I like the beginning of this review but I'm not actually sure how the game plays. You mention a robot mode... but I'm not sure you ever explain quite what that is...?
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aschultz posted September 12, 2009:

Didn't see the grammar errors in the last couple lines, but they still could be cleaned up. Long sentences and all that. I found another one earlier. Actually, I did let this sit and proofread it, but I think the proofreading caused one continuity error.

Thanks for checking this--I've been spending lots of time on two guides for games a lot larger than I thought they'd be, so I'd been trying to go with smaller games. It's great to have a strong starting point for editing stuff.
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JANUS2 posted September 12, 2009:

"This means no dazzling puzzles, so while AMFV is not the best introduction to Infocom game, but completists frustrated by the tougher stuff will definitely enjoy it."

Not so much a grammar problem as an unecessary word: "while." Or even "but" depending on how you want to rephrase it (I suspect the original error probably came from you being caught between two minds). I just skimmed the end, but I'll read this one later when I have the time because the game sounds interesting.
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zippdementia posted September 12, 2009:

My main problem with your most recent reviews is that, while they are for fascinating games, they are also for games that seem very high concept and that makes them difficult to describe. I think for this one in particular you need a very simple paragraph that just explains, like an instruction manual, how this game plays. Usually I would preach exactly the opposite, but for such unique game choices I think it is necessary.
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JANUS2 posted September 12, 2009:

Well, it's an Infocom text adventure. I'm not sure you need to explain it much more than that. But I must admit that the story to this one sounds a bit weird and confusing.
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aschultz posted September 12, 2009:

Thanks for even more recommendations. It's the sort of thing I'm looking for, but I can't really actively solicit. Often I find that when I get a critique topic I say "But I meant..." or "But I thought I said..." and then I realize that's something I should have put in the review. I even try to anticipate criticism and put myself in that spot later, but it isn't until I get feedback that I find stuff to rearrange.

How Infocom used their text parser to try new stuff really interests me, and some of their tougher text adventures are very hard to describe--especially when I want to be succinct--but it's an interesting challenge, and I can learn a lot from this review and from people's ideas on it. It looks like I'm still getting there.

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